POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD, BE WARNED.
The Force Awakens is simply a lovely beginning to the new trilogy of Star Wars films. When George Lucas first sold LucasFilm to Disney, along with all of his film properties, I was admittedly dumbstruck and somewhat afraid. Would Disney take advantage and milk their new property? I feel this fear is still plausible, simply when one considers that we will supposedly get at least one Star Wars movie every year for the next five years (Episode 7 in 2015, Rogue One in 2016, Episode 8 in 2017…ect, ect).
This release table has me worried, (neverminding the non-Skywalker involved “anthology” films like Rogue One, which I’m worried about in general, but more on that later), but The Force Awakens left me with a great deal of anticipation for its eventual sequel (which begins filming in January). But those are all peripheral issues at this point. Right now I need to focus on the topic at hand: there is a new Star Wars movie currently in theaters.
I’ve seen the film twice now. Once last night (Dec 17), and a second time this afternoon (Dec 18). I’m going to spend much of this article discussing my different viewing experiences and how I walked away with different impressions after each showing.
As stated above, there are spoilers ahead. I’m also operating from the perspective that you’ve seen the film already, so be aware of that.
First Showing Reactions: When I first saw The Force Awakens last night, I walked out with some mixed feelings. On the one hand, the movie was very clearly a Star Wars Saga movie, but at the same time it was clearly different. This is firmly New Star Wars. Good, bad, or indifferent, I had not yet decided. All of the new characters (Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is my favorite) are wonderful and a lot of fun to watch, but at first I felt the movie moved too quickly for me to adequately get to know them in a meaningful way.
Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, simply disappears just as his character becomes super interesting, for instance, and the only reason is so Finn (John Boyega) and Rey can run into each other and eventually Han Solo (Harrison Ford). The plot felt slightly contrived, forced, rushed, and loose at the showing last night. I felt that most of what happened was happenstance and none of it seemed to fit or work.
Yet I left satisfied and having had a good time. The movie was a lot of fun despite its flaws and despite the fact that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) does nothing in the movie except look old and grizzled. I knew that going forward the trilogy would likely be a lot of fun and offer much more characterization and world-building.
Second Showing Reactions: Today, however, I left with almost opposite feelings in many aspects. The plot felt far less rushed (I think I mentally rushed through the movie because of anticipation?) and the movie seemed to have the breathing-room I desperately felt it needed after the first showing. Also, the characters still rang true and Rey still came out as my favorite of the new generation.
Overall my enjoyment of the film increased dramatically in my second-viewing.
I find some of the cinemagraphic choices frustrating, however, such as the camera never really letting us see anything. For instance, when Poe Dameron is first captured and brought on board the First Order Star Destroyer, he looks around in amazement at the giant structure…and I would have loved to see it as well, but the images remain tight and focused. I wish that the camera had wandered a bit more and showed off the look of the ships the way it did in the original trilogy.
Also, when Rey, Finn, Han, and Chewbacca (Peter Meyhew) first enter the cantina owned by Moz (Lupita Nyong’o), the camera quickly zips around as if to show the place and its alien inhabitants off to the audience, yet moves so quickly as to create sufficient motion blur to fail at showing anything at all. Overall, I just kind of wish the camera didn’t move so much and would have just stopped for a second.
It’s funny, because in most ways my enjoyment of the film increased ten-fold, and yet some things (as mentioned above) stood out as quite a bit more frustrating than they had originally.
Yet the best moment in the film, and the moment that gives me chills, is when we first see Rey using the lightsaber once owned by Luke Skywalker. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is using the force to try and pull the lightsaber to him but it rips through the air, past his head, and into the hand of Rey.
Then the Skywalker Theme (aka “Binary Sunset”) lightly plays over the scene. It’s marvelous.
Thoughts: As I wrote in my previous post (several months ago, in fact), I was a late comer to Star Wars and when I finally saw those movies I decided that filmmaking (and storytelling in general) would be my goal in life. I’ve never wanted to do anything else but tell stories ever since first seeing A New Hope many years ago.
If anything comes out of these movies, I truly hope it’s that there are some young kids that walked out of theaters all over the world wanting to tell stories, entertain, and give others the same sense of wonder which Star Wars gave to them.
Going Forward: I very much expected Han Solo to die, if I’m just gonna be honest. I’ve know for years that Harrison Ford is a bit disillusioned with the whole Star Wars thing and that he even wanted Solo to die back in the original trilogy, and yet his death here was very satisfactory. Knowing that he fathered this powerful dark Jedi (Sith?), Kylo Ren, is interesting.
But one thing I did not guess was the lack of Luke Skywalker in this film. I fully expected Han to be the main player for the first two thirds (which was correct), that he would die at the end of the second act, and then Luke would be a major player at the end of the film. Yet Luke Skywalker never even speaks a line of dialogue in the film.
I feel strongly that the film hints toward Rey being Luke Skywalker’s daughter. It has to. This saga is about the Skywalker family. There has to be a Skywalker, and I suspect it is Rey. Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt it.
I guess we’ll find out in 2017.